Saturday, October 14, 2017

Mucho Frustration...and, eventually, a Small Triumph

A number of years ago now, I purchased two 12-ton bottle jacks to use to level up the JayBee whenever it got off kilter. Right off the bat, I rendered one inoperable due to misinterpreting something in the instructions. I figured out my mistake before I ruined the other one and, ever since then, I have successfully used the other one (and just the one) to level up the house.

Now that the JayBee needs some substantial leveling, I've been thinking it would be nice to use the two jacks in tandem to level it up. I was determined to fix the inoperable jack so I'd have two functional jacks to use.

Normally, I love following directions. As in assembling things, or fixing things. You know, laying out all the parts, and following step-by-step assembly instructions. And, if I do say so myself, I write thorough, well-illustrated, easy-to-follow directions as well. Because of all this, I can be very critical of poorly-done instructions.

The puny instruction booklet that came with the bottle jacks is abysmal. I'm sure it didn't help that I really knew nothing about hydraulic jacks when I started this repair job. I didn't know how they work, I didn't know the terms used for the different parts, I had no idea how its internal parts look, etc. The only illustration in the entire booklet is the one below--without a single thing on it labeled.

My recollection from when I'd ruined the one jack was that I'd loosened what I finally decided is called the "release valve" too much, and hydraulic oil had leaked out. My plan for fixing the jack was to add hydraulic oil to it and see if I could restore its function.

In the "Checking Oil Level" section of the manual, the instructions said to "remove the inspection plate, and remove the oil plug." Does anything on this jack look like an "inspection plate" or "oil plug" to you? Exactly. I see a label, but nothing that looks like a plate. Frustrated, I turned the jack around and around, and puzzled over it for days.

I ended up deciding that this big piece on the top of the jack might be the "inspection plate."

I had a pipe wrench that would just barely fit around this part but, for the life of me, I could not loosen this "plate." Over the course of three different days, I wrestled with this task by brainstorming and trying various techniques. Finally, today, I managed to loosen the plate and remove it. (The successful technique involved standing on the jack on its side on the ground and applying my body weight to help torque the wrench.) It turns out that the "oil plug" is really this long cylinder (upside down below, with the inspection plate on the bottom). Not at all how I imagined an "oil plug" might look.

Next, the instructions said to pour in hydraulic jack oil until it is "level with the bottom of the fill hole." Look inside this thing--below. Do you know where the "bottom of the fill hole" is? Hmm, neither do I. I think it was at about this point that I started thinking, "I bet my frustration level is similar to most folks' frustration when they're trying to follow instructions I think are 'good.'"

I poured in a little oil, and watched it slowly sink down until it looked like the level of it was the same as it had been when I started. I repeated this move several times. The last time I added a dollop of oil, it didn't sink down. I worried that this might mean I'd poured in too much. I had no way to really know, though, so I re-installed the oil plug and inspection plate.

Sure enough, I couldn't fully retract the hydraulic lift. I figured that meant I'd poured in too much oil. I took the whole thing apart again, removed some oil, and reassembled it. I purged air out of the system following the instructions, and inferring steps where the instructions were incomplete.

VoilĂ ! I fixed this jack!

Even though the other jack had always worked, I thought this might be a good time to take it apart, check the oil level, etc. Nice idea, but I could not get it apart. Okay, I'm not a complete dummy. I cut my losses, and called this good enough. Two working bottle jacks!

I have been futzing around with several other small things on the JayBee recently, so I'll try to add more updates in the next few days.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

You Know You're Taking Too Long to Build Your House When...

...the posts your house has been sitting on are disappearing down into the ground. The big round cinder blocks I put at the base of each post stand 8 inches high, yet, in some cases, only a few inches are still above ground.

This is a problem now because I need to level up the house before I install the horizontal wall and ceiling boards on the interior. This is made all the more challenging because the northwest corner of the JayBee's trailer, the corner that has always been closest to the ground due to the slope of the hill, is currently sitting on the ground--making it difficult to fit a jack underneath it.

You Know You're Taking Too Long to Build Your House When...

...your building permits expire. I mentioned in a prior post that I was going to have to pay for new building permits because I am taking so long to build the JayBee that my permits had expired. That is what I was told by the Code Enforcement Office in mid July.

Good news! When I went to City Hall this morning to get the inevitable over with, I learned that I will not have to pay for new building permits. Since I have been having regular inspections (including one that occurred in late July), the Code Enforcement Officer told me today that she considers my building permit to be still "active," even though my project has taken years. Apparently, as long as I keep working steadily and get regular inspections, I should be all set. Thank goodness!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Radiant Barrier Totally Done!

All of the vapor barrier and radiant barrier is completely done! Every joint/break/seam is taped.

I miscalculated how much radiant barrier I needed for this project--by a lot. I never even opened this last roll.

I continued to install boards in the corner of the closet...

...until I was done.

The view from the inside of the closet...

This next shot is looking straight down the outside wall of the closet. I placed a board on the outside there to show that there is a purposeful gap between the lower edge of each of those boards and the kitchen wall on the outside of the closet. The gaps should keep these boards from trapping a bunch of dirt at their bottom edges. Because...

...all of these boards are shelves for shoes!

After finishing the shoe shelves, I cleaned out the JayBee and vacuumed. From the bed alcove, looking toward the bathroom/west end...

From the bathroom looking toward the bed/east end...

The JayBee is now ready for ceiling and wall boards.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Miscellaneous Updates

In no particular order...

  • Plumber/Thief:  Some of you may remember that, a year and a half ago, a plumber took a deposit from me for rough-in plumbing work on the JayBee--and then did no work, didn't return the money, basically fell off the grid. In April 2017, I won my Small Claims case against the plumber/thief, but he did not keep up with his payments. I'm taking him back to Court next week. <sigh> It never ends. One interesting fact: I served him myself this time. Yup, it's true. After paying a Sheriff for an unsuccessful service of the plumber/thief, I served him myself. Where there's a will...
  • Building Permits: My building permits expired in July and, while I hoped the Code Enforcement Officer (CEO) would take pity on me (being such a slow [but steady!] house builder) and cut me some slack; no such luck. I will have to pay again for more permits. In the meantime, Maine appears to be moving ever closer to adopting new codes for tiny houses. Since I have to get new permits, I'm concerned that what had been going smoothly with the CEO will be disrupted and a new set of rules will be applied to my build mid-project. I guess I'll just cross that bridge when I get to it. [See update posted here.]
  • Bathroom Fan/Vent Fallout: Remember my long torturous day of installing the vent for the bathroom fan? The day I endlessly dropped things and spent hours combing through the thick foliage for my lost items? I ended up with some poison ivy on my hands as a result of those shenanigans. The gift that keeps on giving.
  • Bear: Still no Bear. Within two weeks of Bear going missing, my neighbor's cat disappeared as well. While there may be some outside chance that Bear will return, I think it's probable that he is permanently gone. Here is a gallery of Bear.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Radiant Barrier (Almost) Done

After installing long strips of radiant barrier on the rest of the JayBee's ceiling,

I should be declaring that the entire radiant/vapor barrier is done. Unfortunately, I ran out of the tape I use to seal the joints and breaks, and the resupply I have ordered has not yet arrived. So, that means it is close to done, but not quite.

In the meantime, here is a puzzle. I have begun to install these boards in the closet wall. This is the view from the kitchen side.

This is the view from inside the closet.

Maybe you can guess what the boards are for? When I'm done installing them, I'll let you know their purpose.

Monday, August 28, 2017

More Radiant Barrier


I have spent so much extra time on all of my non-standard architectural details--like the bumpouts and this entryway--every step of the way!

I think the inside of the JayBee is starting to look like a spaceship.

I check on George a gazillion times a day. He's mostly sleeping in one spot...

...or another.